Just over a decade after the first trees were planted at St Ives Community Orchard, volunteers and visitors celebrated the opening of the Core, an inspiring eco-building which will host a range of activities and events.

Core ribbon
Mayor Johnnie Wells cuts the ribbon to officially open the Core

The project aims to bring local groups, schools, and individuals closer to nature through environmental education and training, as well as offering a community meeting place.  

The circular building — officially known as St Ives Orchard Community Learning Centre — was funded through St Ives Town Deal, and designed by local architect Paul Connell. 

The Core is built around a green timber frame, and as well as a large central area and kitchen, office, and storage space, it has a central skylight to bring in natural light. Solar panels have been installed on part of the roof, with the rest planted with wildflower seeds, and there is a veranda with views over the orchard. 

Build project manager Phoebe Sampson said: “As soon as Paul outlined his vision for the building, we knew he understood what we were after. The building is sustainable and ethical, a bright, light space. We can’t wait to put on a programme of workshops which will connect us with each other and with nature.” 

She paid tribute to the volunteers who battled gorse and brambles to clear the site a year ago so that work on the building could begin, as well as the many local companies which contributed to the project, whether through carrying out surveys and landscaping, installing lighting and plumbing, or supplying fencing and decking. One of the final items required is a cooker for the kitchen.      

Core interior
A central skylight brings in lots of natural light

St Ives Community Orchard and Nature Reserve took root in 2013, when volunteers planted the first of hundreds of fruit and nut trees on disused land at Penbeagle. In the years since, beehives have been established, and vegetables and herbs planted in the orchard, plus more than 2,000 native woodland trees on the hillside above.   

Elise Langley, the organisation’s co-founder, said: “It’s been wonderful to see the transformation of the site from when it was just bracken and bramble to what it is now. We are so lucky to have this building for our orchard and our community. I’m excited about its potential, and all the exciting things that we can do here.“   

The orchard has become a place for St Ives folk to celebrate seasonal events like Wassail and the summer and winter solstices, with cider made from the orchard’s own apples, and entertainment from local musicians — including Global Jamming, who played for the official opening of the Core.  

In cutting the ribbon at the entrance to the building, St Ives mayor Johnnie Wells said he was proud to announce that the Core was the first project in Cornwall to be completed under the government’s Towns Fund programme. He described St Ives Community Orchard as “a haven for the town”.